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Toronto Blue Jays Rumors
The Blue Jays set the majority of their 25-man roster today, and there were plenty of interesting decisions to break down. A look at some of the outcomes…
- Two key spots on the lineup will be manned by promising young prospects, as Dalton Pompey was named the center fielder (as was widely expected) and Devon Travis was named the starting second baseman. As MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm writes, the two prospects have been friends since 2013 — before Travis was even acquired from the Tigers in exchange for Anthony Gose this offseason. One of the first calls Travis received upon being traded to Toronto was from Pompey, with whom he had maintained contact after meeting at the 2013 MidWest All-Star Game. Travis emotionally called today the “best day of [his] life,” adding that it was “incredible” to know he’d be a part of a Major League roster.
- Pompey and Travis will be just two of six rookies on the roster, as Shi Davidi of Sportsnet reported today that 20-year-olds Miguel Castro and Roberto Osuna have made the team and will pitch out of the bullpen. Both hard-throwing righties impressed scouts this spring, as they combined for 20 innings (10 each) of one-run ball with 18 strikeouts against just three walks (all from Osuna). Rookies Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez will be in the rotation with Marcus Stroman out for the season.
- The Blue Jays released veteran infielder Ramon Santiago earlier today, as the 35-year-old had broken his collarbone earlier in the spring. However, Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes tweets (in Spanish) that the Jays may yet re-sign him to a new Minor League deal. Doing so would allow the Jays to keep Santiago and allow him to rehab in the organization while avoiding having to pay the former Article XX(B) free agent a $100K retention bonus.
Per the latest iteration of Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, players with six years of service time who finished the 2014 season on a 40-man roster or on the 60-day DL but signed Minor League deals over the offseason are entitled to a $100K retention bonus if their new team wishes to assign them to the Minor Leagues. Otherwise, they must be added to the MLB roster or Major League disabled list. Players who do receive the retention bonus are also given June 1 opt-out dates in their Minor League pacts.
MLBTR’s Jeff Todd ran down a list of this year’s Article XX(B) free agents earlier in the month, and we’re now arriving at the juncture of Spring Training where decisions must be made on these players — the deadline will come at 11am CT tomorrow. Many such players have already been released or granted their release today (some will re-sign with the teams that released them, as Chris Perez did in Milwaukee), but here are updates on players who were paid this bonus or learned that they’ve made their respective teams…
- Yahoo’s Jeff Passan tweets that utility man Kelly Johnson has made the Braves‘ 25-man roster. Johnson inked a Minor League pact that included a yet-unreported base salary. His versatility, the organization’s familiarity with him and the fact that the 32-year-old slashed a hefty .273/.396/.523 with a pair of homers in 54 plate appearances this spring likely all factored into the decision.
- The Nationals will pay left-hander Rich Hill the $100K retention bonus, tweets James Wagner of the Washington Post. The 35-year-old yielded a pair of runs in 7 1/3 innings this spring and will give the Nats some left-handed relief depth. Of course, the Nats also just traded away some lefty relief by dealing out-of-options southpaw Jerry Blevins and his $2.4MM salary to the Mets.
- Padres catcher Wil Nieves has received a $100K retention bonus, tweets Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Nieves is still in the running for the team’s backup catching slot, Lin adds. Tim Federowicz was slated to be the team’s backup, but knee surgery has sidelined him for the next several months. The team must make a final call by this Sunday.
- The D-Backs and catcher Gerald Laird and agreed to a five-day extension that will allow him to remain in big league camp, reports Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona (on Twitter). Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic adds some clarity, noting that Laird still received the $100K retention bonus but will have the opportunity to fight for a roster spot (Twitter link). The five days will give the Snakes a bit more time to determine whether or not they want to take the veteran Laird north with them to open the season.
- The Blue Jays have paid the $100K retention bonus to both Johan Santana and Munenori Kawasaki, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Both players were on Minor League deals, but Santana didn’t get into a game with the big league club as he continued to rehab from injury. Kawasaki hit .333/.481/.571 in 27 plate appearances but didn’t make the big league roster. He’ll head to Triple-A and wait for a call to the Majors in an organization with which he is quite familiar and where he is quite popular among the coaches and his teammates.
- Right-handers Brad Penny and Jesse Crain both received retention bonuses from the White Sox, Passan also reports (on Twitter). The duo will remain in the Minors in the hopes of a spot opening with the big league club. Penny struggled to a 6.89 ERA in 15 2/3 innings this spring, though little can be gleaned from such a small sample, and he did issue only four walks along the way. Crain, like his former Twins teammate Santana in Toronto, didn’t pitch in a big league game as he continued to rehab from injuries that cost him the entire 2014 season in Houston.
- Both Geovany Soto and Matt Albers, on the other hand, have made the White Sox‘ roster and will be added to the 40-man, Passan reports in the aforementioned tweet. Presumably, Soto will be in the mix for everyday at-bats behind the plate following a strong spring performance. Albers will slot into the bullpen and bring an experienced arm to serve as a right-handed setup option. Soto’s base salary is an unknown, wheres Albers stands to reportedly receive a $1.5MM base for making the club.
After failing to make the Blue Jays roster, outfielder Dayan Viciedo has requested and will be granted his release, GM Alex Anthopoulos tells reporters including Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link).
Viciedo, a late entrant onto the free agent market when the White Sox released him, struggled at the plate this spring. The 26-year-old has seen plenty of action over the last three big league campaigns, averaging over 500 plate appearances per year. He has also hit an average of twenty long balls in each of those campaigns, though his on-base percentage is sub-.300 and he is not well-regarded defensively.
It remains to be seen whether any team will have a major league opportunity for Viciedo to start the year. Several clubs have less-than-clear corner outfield situations, but those organizations already had one opportunity to grab Viciedo. Of course, things have changed in some situations; the Phillies, for example, will start Domonic Brown on the DL and have watched Grady Sizemore scuffle this spring, so could be newly motivated to take a shot on Viciedo.
The 35-year-old Santiago got off to a scorching start this spring with five hits in 12 at-bats, but he unfortunately broke his collarbone about two weeks ago — an injury that was said at the time to sideline him for 10 weeks. Santiago hit .246/.343/.324 with the Reds last season and has significant experience at second base, shortstop and third base.
Barton’s reassignment to Minor League camp would seem to bode well for Justin Smoak‘s case to make the team. Most have expected Smoak to receive a look as a platoon option at first base (hitting from the left side), and with Barton’s hope of making the team now dashed, Smoak should be in line to indeed fill that role.
Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News writes Spring Training is broken. Grant suggests reversing the current reporting schedule of players with minor leaguers and non-roster invitees reporting at the beginning of camp and the 40-man roster showing up ten days later. Grant also proposes expanding the roster to 28 for the month of April with 25 designated as active for games. This would allow teams, Grant reasons, to carry more pitching in April, as the hurlers continue to build their durability.
In today’s news and notes from the American League:
- In a separate article, Grant reports the Rangers have informed Jamey Wright he will not make the team, but the right-hander has decided to remain in camp. “If they change their minds, I’m still here,” said Wright, who is an Article XX(B) free agent. “But, if not, I’m showcasing for all the other teams.” As an Article XX(B) free agent, the Rangers must pay Wright a $100K retention bonus, if they decide to keep him in their organization.
- Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez has an appointment with Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday increasing speculation his recent MRI results could lead to Tommy John surgery and the end to his season before it begins, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal.
- Despite the uncertain status of Vazquez, the Red Sox have not engaged the Blue Jays about Dioner Navarro, tweets CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman. With Vazquez’s injury, Heyman notes the Red Sox will give prized catching propsect Blake Swihart an extended look during the final week of Spring Training.
- James Schmehl of MLive.com tweets he wouldn’t be surprised if the Tigers take a flyer on James Russell, even though the left-hander has had a terrible spring. The 29-year-old was released by the Braves Sunday morning.
- The Tigers will only go as far as their veteran stars take them, but there is some important young talent on the roster and their performance could prove pivotal as the franchise bids for its fifth straight AL Central title, opines MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan did not address whether Mike Pelfrey has requested a trade in the wake of the right-hander’s comments yesterday after losing the battle for a rotation spot, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Pelfrey threw one inning of perfect relief against the Orioles today needing just eight pitches in lowering his spring ERA to 1.23.
- Ryan Madson, in camp with the Royals on a minor league contract, calls his comeback from elbow injuries “a challenge” and knows he can pitch again at the MLB level, writes MLB.com’s Barry Bloom. “If it doesn’t happen here, I will see if there’s any other interest and will go from there,” said Madson, who has a May 1st opt-out. “I mean, I came in not knowing whether I could pitch on consecutive days or three times a week, and now I’m past that. I know what I can do and I want to pitch again in the Major Leagues.“
The Blue Jays have announced they have claimed first baseman Andy Wilkins off waivers from the White Sox. Toronto immediately optioned the 26-year-old to Triple-A Buffalo where he will serve as organizational depth at first base.
Wilkins made his MLB debut last year with the White Sox appearing in 17 games slashing .140/.178/.186 in 45 plate appearances. Wilkins spent the majority of 2014 at Triple-A, his first full season at that level, and batted .293/.338/.558 with 30 home runs in 529 trips to the plate.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe checked in with Max Scherzer, who is missing former teammate Rick Porcello. Scherzer, of course, left the Tigers in free agency to sign with the Nationals in January. Porcello, meanwhile, was shipped from the Tigers to the Red Sox in December. Scherzer still texts a lot with Porcello, and they have had conversations about free agency.
“He understands the business of the game really well and what teams are trying to accomplish,” said Scherzer. “As most players, he’s motivated by winning as well. What works is going out there and having one motivation and that’s winning. And those things will take care of themselves.”
Cafardo has talked with a few baseball executives who believe Porcello will walk from the Red Sox and do exactly what Scherzer did – go to the highest bidder. Here’s more from today’s column..
- The Rockies tried to trade Jhoulys Chacin but couldn’t find a buyer, so they released him last week. The 27-year-old was a victim of Coors Field, where his ERA was 4.21 as opposed to a much more palatable 3.24 on the road. Cafardo writes that the Red Sox, Dodgers, Rays, and Blue Jays have been looking for a veteran starter and may be considering him.
- Braves people insist that they will not entertain a deal for closer Craig Kimbrel, but a few executives expect that Atlanta will be thinking differently if they are out of contention at the trade deadline. The Braves are eyeing 2017 as their relaunch, so Cafardo doesn’t see the need for them to hang on to a top closer like Kimbrel in the interim.
- Dan Uggla has an April 1st opt-out on his minor league deal with the Nationals and his play this spring is giving GM Mike Rizzo something to think about, but roster space is an issue. If Uggla doesn’t make the cut in Washington, Cafardo suggests that the Angels, Braves, Orioles, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Padres, and Rays could all justify bringing him aboard.
Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez says his recent elbow MRI “found something,” but there’s no diagnosis yet, the Boston Globe’s Alex Speier tweets. Vazquez will seek a second opinion. If the Red Sox were to need to replace Vazquez, Ryan Hanigan would be the obvious choice. If Vazquez were to need to miss significant time, there would likely be speculation about the promotion of top prospect Blake Swihart, who the Red Sox optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket last week. Here are more notes from the East divisions.
- James Russell and Josh Outman have struggled this spring, widening the field of decisions the Braves will have to make as they set their roster, Mark Bowman of MLB.com writes. The Braves could release either one and pay only about a quarter of their salaries. Outman, who’s set to make $925K after signing with the Braves in January, could be in particular danger, Bowman suggests. It now looks increasingly likely that Luis Avilan will make the team as one of the Braves’ bullpen lefties, with prospect Brady Feigl as another possibility.
- There don’t appear to be any trades involving Dioner Navarro in the works, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets. Navarro, of course, became mostly superfluous to the Jays after they acquired Russell Martin. Navarro’s name had lately been connected to the Diamondbacks, although the D-backs have said they can’t afford his $5MM salary.
Here’s the latest from the game’s eastern divisions to wrap up the day’s news:
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos was notably on hand to watch Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon work early in his outing today against the Yankees, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reports. While Salisbury notes that it is impossible to know the reason for the visit, Toronto obviously has some questions at the back of its pen and has been mentioned as a plausible suitor for the veteran righty. Papelbon has looked strong this spring, as the report further notes, though his contract (and, in particular, its vesting clause for next year) remains the largest factor in his trade value.
- Though the Yankees have yet to say so officially, Adam Warren appears ticketed for the team’s fifth starter role, as Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reports. If he does indeed take that slot, the out-of-options Esmil Rogers will either need to lock up a pen slot or, perhaps, find another team.
- Shane Victorino‘s recent comments about the possibility of the Red Sox dealing for Cole Hamels led to a bit of a dust-up in Boston, due in part to a seemingly strained interpretation suggesting that Victorino was advocating for the departure of phenom Mookie Betts. As Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports, Victorino vehemently denies that reading of his words. Regardless, of course, as Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal explains, Boston’s front office understandably has little interest in shipping away its most prized young talent for expensive veterans.
Right-hander Kyle Drabek has been claimed on waivers by the White Sox, the Blue Jays announced. Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweeted minutes before the announcement that an unknown club had claimed Drabek, and Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi had originally tweeted that Drabek was packing up his locker and appeared to be on the move. Fellow righty Nate Jones has been placed on the 60-day DL to clear a roster spot, the White Sox announced.
The 27-year-old Drabek was once regarded as one of baseball’s top 30 prospects by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, and he was the centerpiece of the trade that sent Roy Halladay from Toronto to Philadelphia. Injuries, however, have limited much of his ability to stay on the mound since being acquired by Toronto (he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012), and he’s been ineffective when able to take the hill. In 172 1/3 big league innings, Drabek has a 5.27 ERA, an even more unsightly 5.41 FIP and an uninspiring 118-to-111 K/BB ratio.
Drabek has been effective over the past two Minor League seasons, however, and he’s had a strong Spring Training (7 IP, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K), though it’s tough to place too much emphasis on seven spring innings. Drabek is out of Minor League options, as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes recently noted, meaning that he’d have to clear waivers before the Sox could send him outright to Triple-A.
The Sox may very well try to sneak Drabek through waivers, as the bullpen picture already contains David Robertson, Jake Petricka, Zach Duke, Daniel Webb, Zach Putnam, Javy Guerra and Dan Jennings, with Maikel Cleto and Eric Surkamp also serving as options.